Sunday, March 21, 2010

Greenwood Cemetery Clean-Up Project

The following article first appeared in the AAHGS News, November/December 2009, a publication of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

Do your Missouri family ties include Saint Louis County?

If so, Greenwood Cemetery, located at 6571 Saint Louis Avenue in Hillsdale, Missouri, desperately needs your help. The first non-sectarian African-American Cemetery founded in 1874, contains thirty-one acres of hallowed ground and is the final resting place of 30,000+ African Americans: including former slaves (e.g., Dred Scott’s wife, Harriet), veterans, and other community members. A partial listing of Greenwood Cemetery inhabitants can be found at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/greenwood/1874-1908burials.pdf

According to Etta D., who is on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Greenwood Cemetery Association, “Greenwood has not received regular maintenance since the late 1980's and most of it is an overgrown wilderness at this point. We - The Friends of Greenwood - are desperately trying to find a solution.” By not cleared, I thought she meant weeds. “…More than weeds, Anita. The neighbors, in the houses surrounding Greenwood, refer to it as ‘The Jungle’, which is exactly what it looks like at this time.”

A year after our initial correspondence, while in Saint Louis for the weekend, I visited ‘the Jungle’ in search of the final resting place of one of my grandfather’s first cousin’s, Shepherd Boyd, and saw for myself what 20 years of neglect had done. As I walked around the area, I imagined my own family’s cemetery in Mississippi undergoing a similar fate. Without family-funded perpetual care, it was only a matter of time. It's a cautionary tale for anyone interested in preserving the memories of their loved ones.

NB: I'm still searching for Shep!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Traveler's Gift

Last Thursday, I picked up several used books at my local Goodwill store, including a hardback version of Killer Angels (to replace my trade size paperback). Today, I finally had a chance to read one of those other finds: The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews.

I was intrigued by the storyline: “…an extraordinary experience awaits David Ponder. He finds himself traveling back in time, meeting leaders and heroes at crucial moments in their lives. From the European theater of World War I…from a Civil War battlefield…David encounters some of the wisest people who ever lived. Abraham Lincoln, King Solomon, Anne Frank, Harry Truman, and others teach him unforgettable life lessons.” Sounds promising, huh?

After the dedication page, I found myself reading a quote by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and immediately thought that I’ve read way too many Civil War books. Keep in mind that I’ve only been doing genealogical research for three years. Was it a coincidence that I had also picked up Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels? If you don’t know the premise behind Killer Angels, I won’t spoil it for you. Let's just say that Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain figures prominently in the Battle of Gettysburg.

I challenge you to read The Traveler's Gift and not experience your own epiphany. It's a combination of fact and fiction, history and how-to, and time-travel and transformation. From a genealogical point of view, what I wouldn't give to have just one of those conversations with my great-great grandmother, Caroline Bingham, or her mother and father, Margaret McDowell and Joe Bingham, or Margaret's mother, Harriet McDowell. What words of wisdom would they give me?

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Biography of America

These days, I've deliberately chosen to make typical cable programming a thing of the past: No more reality TV and no more premium channels. When I do watch television, it's one of those channels found in a basic cable subscription. With limited intellectual stimulation, what am I to do?

This afternoon, I flipped the channels until I came upon WDCB-TV, owned and operated by the College of DuPage, my local junior college. As the French would say, Je suis tombée bien -- I had good timing. I arrived just in time to watch my favorite telecourse: French in Action. And then another program came on the screen: A Biography of America.

This series, moderated by Professor Donald L. Miller, is an good introduction to American History--particularly if you've discovered a renewed interest in history because of your genealogical pursuits. I'm assuming, of course, that you're interested in telling your ancestors stories not just collecting their names.

You too can watch full episodes of this series of 26 half-hour programs at http://www.learner.org/resources/series123.html. Scroll down the page for individual program descriptions and click the VoD icon on the right side of the page. You may have to temporarily disable your pop-up blocker.

Thanks to many Annenberg/CPB projects, my continuing education has expanded exponentially. Please join me in supporting our local Public Broadcasting Stations!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Ancestry.com Webinars -- Membership Not Required

Everyday I learn something new is a good day and today was a very good day. I've been a member of Ancestry.com for the better part of three years and just attended my first two webinars. There's something for everyone and if you too aren't familiar with these webinars, just go to Ancestry.com>Learning Center>Webinars: Online Seminars.

Today, I watched a webinar entitled Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy. Tony Burroughs, author of Black Roots was the featured speaker. I've read Tony's book a couple of times and have plenty of post-it tabs throughout to prove it. None of what he said was new but it might as well have been.

As I now have a couple of years of experience under my belt, I can really appreciate his wisdom. After all, what is experience? Well, according to Oscar Wilde, "Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." I'm determined that before I request anymore documents, I'm going to update and organize those that I already have. Tony, thanks for your insight!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

...actually a British export, has been around for years and traces the family history of English celebrities. Lisa Kudrow is producing the American version and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday. Snippets featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, & Emmitt Smith were aired.

After the show ended, I went to Youtube.com to look for episodes of the British version of WDYTYA. I found several, including episodes featuring Kim Cattrall (another Sex in the City alumna), Jeremy Irons, & David Suchet (Hercule Poirot). Remind me NOT to do that again. I was up until 430a!

NB: The Emmitt Smith episode will air this Friday. Also, previously aired episodes can be viewed at http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/video/ until September 18, 2010! To see this program, you may have to temporarily disable your pop-up blocker.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blogging?! Are You Serious?

In March 2007, I was introduced to the concept of blogging while at a genealogy computing workshop in Galesburg, Illinois. And then again, in October 2009, I attended a how-to-blog workshop at the International Black Genealogy Summit . Two months later, the little monster reared its ugly head again when my cousin asked to consider putting my thoughts to print.

She even offered to create the blog for me and all I had to do was write. I couldn't lose but I like a challenge and was determined to do this myself -- eventually. Finally, after being hit over the head one last time, by an article entitled "Blog Your Family History" in the April 2010 edition of Discovering Family History magazine, I got the hint!

So, what did I do? I went to my favorite online "university". After watching a couple of basic how-to tutorials, I had the beginnings of a Blogger blog. Since then, I've spruced it up thanks to 118 very short tutorials at citricguy's channel on YouTube.com. Bob Sommers, you rock!

And Chris, thank you for forcing me out of my element!

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